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Monday, July 23, 2012

Looking back for the sake of the future

Future Grace by John Piper is an amazing book. Actually...anything by Piper is usually pretty amazing but Future Grace is book that give you an entirely new perspective on grace and how to kill sin in your life. Ive been blogging my way through this great book and now find myself at Chapter 7. Its called Looking back for the Sake of the Future.

In 2 Corinthians 1:16-20 Paul says he planned to pass through Corinth twice, once on his way north to Macedonia and then again upon his return south. His plans changed and his opponents in Corinth are arguing that Paul is vacillating, changing his mind and breaking promises whenever he thinks that to do so will be to his personal advantage. At least some of the Corinthians, therefore, think that Paul does not have their good at heart.

In verse 18 we see how Paul answers this criticism. He says that as sure as God is faithful that his word to them has no been yes and no. He links his decision right back to God being faithful. He tells them that he is not divided. He says that he does want to see them. As sure as God is faithful he wants to see them. He then goes on to tell and remind them that all of Gods promises are Yes in Christ. But whats the connection? Why is Paul linking the faithfulness of God to his desire to visit those in Corinth?

We see the connection between Gods faithful and Pauls desire made clear in verses 19 and 20. Paul says that he desire to see them is Yes because God has spoken a Yes for them in Christ. Gods heart towards them in not divided and Pauls heart is not divided either. Thats why he finished with All of Gods promises being Yes in Christ Jesus.

As I start to think on Gods promises, the one that comes to mind and I find the most hope in is Philippians 1:6 - He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ. This is one of the most wonderful promises. I so often deal with my own failures and short comings. So often I try and take the workload for living a Godly life on my shoulders. So many times I carry around the weight of trying to do what God has said to do. I start to see the failures and drift into despair. Its in those moments of feeling lost and helpless that grace comes to me and reminds me that the battle for my soul and growth dose not rest with me and my ability. It rest in God and the work that he is doing.

Yet there is that phrase that Paul uses about the promises of God finding their yes in Christ. So how does knowing that God will be faithful to complete what he began find its yes in Christ? This promise finds its yes because God has promised to Christ a bride. God has given to Christ a people. Christ has come to redeem those that are given to him by the Father. So knowing that we see that my growth has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with Christ having saved his people. This shift the entire focus off of me and my plans and puts the focus where it belongs. It takes my struggles and roots them firmly in the plans of God and the Yes that he has said to Christ. The yes in the promises of God do not rest in me or who I am. The promises are you because of who Christ is. God has said yes to Christ and because I am in Him those promises and yess flow to me.

For you in might be some other promise of God. It might be that he will never leave you or forsake you. It might be that he will comfort you. It could be that he will take the shame of your sin away. The promises of God are as vast as the stars in the heavens and the all find their yes in the Savior. When we see this....When we come to know not only with our heads but with our hearts there is only one response that comes forth from us. Its the same response that Paul gave. When we see and savior the wonders of God and the love he has for the Son and the blessing that flow from His promises to Christ we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

The truth of these verse should have a profound impact on the way we live. We can look back to the finished work of Christ and ground our hope in what Christ has done. This also draws the connection to future grace. Everything that Christ has done allows for all future grace. It is because God has said Yes to Christ that we can look towards the future with confidence. That means that the way to fight unbelief is to grab hold of what Christ did and look forward to Gods promises being fulfilled.

To help us understand this Piper uses the example of hiring an employee. One of the ways to try and figure out how he will behave in the future is to look at his past. We look at how this person seeking employment has worked in the past. We look at the success they have had and look at the failures they have had. While past performance is no indicator of future performance it is often a good indicator. If this new hire has been faithful in past matters, there is not much reason to doubt how they will behave in the future.

The same reasoning applies to our relationship with God. When we are struggling with some issue or overwhelming sin in our life we look to the past to recall God being faithful. We look to the past to for seeing the future. It is because God has been faithful in the past that we can trust him to be faithful in the future. If you take a look at Israel we see what happens when you fail to look back. When Israel turned to false gods after the death of Gideon the book of Judges tells us why they did this. It says they did not remember the Lord their God who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side. It was because of a failure to look back that Israel did not grab hold of future grace.

Amen is another place that we find future grace showing up. Amen is nothing more than saying I agree. When we end our prayers with amen we are agreeing that all of Gods promises are rooted in Christ. Our prayer go thought Christ and Gods yes comes back to us by Christ. Thats why we pray in the name of Jesus. With Jesus in our prayer we would never hear a yes to anything we asked for. It is only because of the promises of God finding their yes in Christ that we hear yes from God. When we say amen we are agreeing that God has made all the promises to Christ. Amen is acknowledging that Gods promises find their answer in Christ. When we end our prayers with amen we say Yes God. I will live by future grace.

As I take time to ponder this lesson and look into my past for examples of God being faithful I start to see just how faithful he is. What a kind and loving God I serve. He has shown me grace upon grace. All my past trials were used to shape me and mold me. The were used by him to refine me. Yet when current struggles come I am like the children of Israel. I am quick to forget what God has done. I fail to look back. Its my failure to look to the past that keeps me from steeping out in faith in current trials. The lesson that I have learned from 2 Corinthians 1:16-20 is that I need to look to my past to move forward. When I am failing and slipping in my life I need to go back and place my feet firmly on the cross and on Christ. When I cant look forward I need to look back and see all of Gods promises find a yes in Christ. Sometimes the way forward is to look back.

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